Archive | April, 2011

Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives – The Wedding Present

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Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives – The Wedding Present

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Dorian

Here’s the fifth part in our list of bands that changed our lives. These are more than just our favourite bands, these are bands that altered how we think about music and provided the soundtrack to our lives. To see the other bands previously  featured in this series click here.

Part 5 – The Wedding Present

Some people will see this article and be surprised at The Wedding Present as a choice for a landmark band, to many they will represent the mundanity of pre-Madchester indie. To a 15 year old fledgling alternative music obsessive in 1987 they represented something more, the first new British indie act to grab me in my teenage years.

Formed in 1985 by David Gedge and Keith Gregory, from the ashes of their first band the Lost Pandas, the line-up was completed by Peter Solowka and Shaun Charman. This line-up would record a handful of singles and Peel sessions (the band recorded 9 sessions with the DJ) ,released in 1988 as Tommy, and their classic debut album George Best.

The Wedding Present circa 1990

The Wedding Present circa 1990

George Best was my first encounter with the band and soon became my favourite album of my mid-teens. The Wedding present were seen as second rate to The Smiths in the indie-hierarchy, but to me they were the superior band in every way. I love The Smiths now, but as a teenager in the south of England they said little to me. I wasn’t interested in Morrissey’s fey approach or his poetic references, Gedge’s tales of wet bus stops, disappointment and girl troubles said a lot more to a 15 year old who was just discovering girls and the complications that brought.

The bands time on the major label RCA was a brilliant period which produced the bands two best albums and saw the band going from creative strength to creative strength. Bizarro showed an increasingly abrasive edge to the bands frenzied guitars and spawned their first top 40 hits. ‘Brassneck’ was released as a single and rerecorded with Steve Albini, who would oversee the follow-up album Seamonsters, beating PJ Harvey and Nirvana to recording with the Big Black legend. The B-side to the single included a cover off the Pavement song ‘Box Elder’ some 8 years before Blur picked them up as an influence in the wake of Brit-pop.

I saw the band live several times in the late 80s and early 90s and they were never less than excellent. Gedge a dry witted and understated front man and the sets full throttle and filled with crowd pleasing favourites. Even the band’s trademark refusal to play and encore added to the enjoyment of the live show.

The Wedding Present had a landmark contract with RCA, it not only meant they could work with any producer or their choosing but also meant that if the label rejected any of their singles they could choose to release it with any other label. As a result the label didn’t resist their decision to release a single a month for the whole of 1992, which were later released on the Hit Parade 1 and 2 compilations. This proved to be a good move as the band equalled Elvis’s record of having 12 top 30 hits in a single year, despite each single being limited to 10,000 copies. One of my regrets is only picking up three of the singles, my record buying at the time being at the mercy of the stock in the Our Price on Eltham high street, and missing out on the inventive cover art and interesting cover versions on each b-side.

The Wedding Present today

The Wedding Present today

With the release of Watusi in 1994 (the first album by the band to only feature Gedge from the original line-up) I had started to lose interest in the band. In retrospect this was a mistake as that album stands up as one the bands best (and demands a reissue) but as a fickle indie kid I had moved on to other acts. After a few releases were ignored by the record buying public Gedge joined me and brought the band to a close to focus on his new act Cinerama.

Cinerama pulled me back in, they were basically the same band but with less of the drab indie reputation that The Wedding Present had established over time. After a string of excellent albums Gedge reverted back to the Wedding Present moniker to release Take Fountain in 2005.

The band continue to this day, playing gigs, releasing records and running mini-festivals in Brighton and Holmfirth. they deserve to be remembered as one of the great British bands of the last 30 years and David Gedge held up alongside Morrissey as one of the great lyricists and songwriters.

Ten Wedding Present Tracks To Check Out:

  1. You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends
  2. My Favourite Dress
  3. I’m Not Always So Stupid
  4. Kennedy
  5. Corduroy
  6. Dalliance
  7. California
  8. Spangle
  9. Sports car
  10. I’m From Further North Than You

And for a selection of songs listen to this Spotify playlist. (Only live tracks are available on Spotify from the pre-Bizarro era, and the albums towards the end of band first time around aren’t present).

By Dorian Rogers

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Just Handshakes (We’re British) – Falling Over Our Fear

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Just Handshakes (We’re British) – Falling Over Our Fear

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Joe

Excellently named Leeds band Just Handshakes (We’re British) have been snapped up by Spanish indie pop label Elefant for the release of this their fourth single.

Forming part of Elefant’s New Adventures in Pop series of limited edition 7” colour vinyl singles, this four track single (which is also available to download) shows a band that could be a real force within the UK indie scene over the coming year.

All four tracks, most notably the title track and ‘Brakes’ are tight, catchy indie-pop with the added bonus of their remarkable vocalist Clara Patrick.

Whether you share our appreciation of Just Handshakes will rely on your feelings towards her vocals. To those unfamiliar with female folk singers across the north of England her singing style with its Yorkshire lilt may seem a little jarring. We advise those that think that way to pick up some music by artists on Leeds No Masters label like Chumbawamba and Jo Freya, have a good listen and then return to find a new appreciation in Patrick’s distinct indie-pop take on traditional folk singing.

As folk and indie fans Just Handshakes are just perfect for us at Neon Filler and we look forward to hearing a debut album in the near future.

8/10

by Joe lepper

To hear the tracks and download the single click here.

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Top Ten Guitarists (That Don’t Often Make Top Ten Guitarists Lists)

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Top Ten Guitarists (That Don’t Often Make Top Ten Guitarists Lists)

Posted on 20 April 2011 by Joe

“What! You fools! Where’s Hendrix? Where’s Clapton?” OK, so this is a top ten guitarists list without some of the best guitarists in it. We accept that, but what we wanted to do was create a list that didn’t have the same, boring faces on it and instead honour  those that often fail to make the usual top tens. We’ve gone for those with undoubted skill but also the power to influence thousands of other guitarists and change a band’s direction all through their unique brand of fretmanship. Sit back, crack open a pack of Ernie Ball super slinky strings and enjoy Neon Filler’s distinct Top Ten Guitarists list.

(To coincide with the release of this list we are also offering the chance to win a set of luxury plectrums. Head over to our competition page for further details.)

10. Roddy Byers (The Specials)

When you think of The Specials you probably think of a great ska beat, the witty and socially aware lyrics, or perhaps the horn section booming out on tracks such as ‘Ghost Town’. But for us it was the lead guitar playing of Roddy Byers that left us mesmerised.  Because The Specials were not a guitar band in the sense of the early Beatles or the Stones Byers contribution can easily be overlooked, but take a closer listen and there’s some great guitar work going on.  Among our favourite Special’s tracks featuring Byers’ skills are ‘Concrete Jungle’ (a song Byers wrote) and ‘It’s Up to You’.

9. Ricky Wilson (The B-52s)

The B-52s guitarist Ricky Wilson’s style sounded like a bizarre new wave version of Duane Eddy and involved some of the strangest tunings and string removals in modern music. Five strings, with the G string missing was among his common methods, but he also often played with just four on his trusty Mosrite. The Mosrite forum has some interesting listings of his open tuning string configurations for some of the band’s key songs if you want to attempt to recreate Ricky’s unusual style. Be warned though replicating Wilson’s tuning may be tricky. He died in 1985  and according to the Mosrite forum Wilson reportedly once said “I just tune the strings till I hear something I like, and then something comes out…No, I don’t write anything down I have no idea how the tunings go.”

8. Johnny Hickman

Johnny Hickman is the smartly coiffured lead guitarist in the Virgina based band Cracker. His country rock sound is influenced by punk, surf and classic pop. Like all great guitarists he knows just when to hold back and when to let rip. He is a sophisticated player, and he needs to be when he is playing songs written by David Lowery, one of the most esoteric people in pop music. He is just as skilled when playing the grungey ‘Low’ as he is a country ballad like ‘Darling One’ but is at his most comfortable playing the bluesy riffs and soloing like he does in the above clip of ‘Been Around The World’.

7. Dallas and Travis Good (The Sadies)

Dallas and Travis GoodThe more perceptive reader will have noticed that this is actually two people, albeit two closely related ones, but there is another very good reason for their joint inclusion. They have an amazing trick where they play each others guitars.A photo doesn’t do this full justice, I’ve seen them live a few times and I’m still amazed every time. Of course there’s much more to their playing than just one party trick and their band, The Sadies, are brilliant. We’ve banned the likes of Syd Barrett from this feature but if it’s 60’s rock you’re after The Sadies’ cover of Lucifer Sam, everyone’s favourite diabolic cat, should do the trick. Like fellow Canadian Neil these guys really rock albeit it in a more interestingly psychedelic alt-country kind of way.

6. Dave Gregory (XTC)

Dave Gregory had been playing the guitar in bands  since he was a teenager in the 1960s but it wasn’t until  a decade later when he joined XTC that his talent gained the audience it deserved. He transformed XTC’s  style and spent the next 20 years beautifully augmenting the songs of its chief writers Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding with his inventive, exciting guitar parts. Sometimes jazz, sometimes pure pop, his solos were intricate but never showy and his riffs were always catchy. He now plies his trade with The Tin Spirits, and their act contains a number of XTC hits, including ‘Scissor Man’ which is a great example of his technically inventive style.

5. Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet came to prominence when he joined the psychedelic desert rock group Green On Red in 1985. His unique take on Stonesey guitar playing would lead them down a country blues root for the rest of their recording career.  Since 1990 he has had a successful solo career and also been an in demand session guitarist for a range of artists including Bob Neuwirth, Kelly Willis, Aimee Mann, Warren Zevon, Jonathan Richman, Lucinda Williams and Cake. His solo outings have tended to be more restrained affairs with the guitar heroics taking a back seat to the singing and songwriting. It is with Green On Red, particularly live, that Prophet lets rip and blasts out impossible riffs and scorching guitar solos. The clip above shows us how it is done, the solo starts at 1:30 and seems to last until the end of the song.

4. Brian Baker

Brian Baker is one of the most influential guitarists in the history of punk. From his early bands Minor Threat and Dag Nasty through to his current band Bad Religion his style is often copied. At the heart of his playing is a powerful and warm distortion that somehow allows the melody and his distinct way of finger picking chords to shine through. When we recently included Can I Say, the 1986 debut from Dag Nasty in our Top 100 Albums list, FlexMyHead, a contributor on the Daghouse forum (dedicated to all things Dag Nasty) gave us this excellent review of Baker’s playing. “I think that the way Brian Baker would slip into single picking/notes and just his guitar sound was more important than his bar chords, kinda in the same way that the Adolescents and D.I. pioneered the use of that sliding octave chords for melody, I think Brian Baker defined some of the melodic-punk staples the bands have gone on to use. Even in a current punk band like Strike Anywhere, I hear Brian Baker’s influence in their guitar work, even if the music is not quite the same.”

3. David Rawlings

Best known as the musical partner of Gillian Welch, David Rawlings is right at the top of the list of guitarists we’ve had the pleasure of seeing live. As you can see from the clip his technical ability is off the radar and adds to his spell binding performances. While Welch tops the bill, Rawlings is just as much of a star. Others realise this too with Rawlings having played on Ryan Adams’s albums Demolition and Heartbreaker, which was recently named a Neon Filler Top 100 album. He’s also appeared on two Bright Eyes albums, Cassadaga and Four Winds.

2. Buster B Jones

Buster B Jones wasn’t one for interviews and was reportedly uncomfortable with fame. Yet this blues man was one of the most influential and dazzling guitar players of all time. His life was tragically cut short at 49 when liver failure got the better of him but he has never been forgotten. Despite having his name inlaid in his fret board in mother of pearl this was a rare moment of immodesty for this warm and friendly guitar legend.

1. Davey Graham

Other British guitarists are better known but are any more influential? The late Davy Graham pioneered the British folk guitar boom of the 1960s and influenced a generation of songwriters from Paul Simon to Bert Jansch. Perhaps his most famous composition was ‘Anji’, which Jansch in particular does a great version of. Part of Graham’s skill was his eclectic approach to guitar music, using it to both reinvigorate English folk music and bring music from around the world to a Western audience. North Africa, eastern Europe and India are just of the musical destinations his musical prowess covered. The album Folk Roots, New Routes, with Shirley Collins and The Guitar Player, featuring a beautiful version of the Julie London hit ‘Cry Me A River’, are among the many highlights in his back catalogue.

Compiled by Martin Burns, Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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Dirty Water 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude

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Dirty Water 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude

Posted on 18 April 2011 by Joe

Veteran music journalist Kris Needs has been back to his record collection for a follow up to last year’s compilation Dirty Water: The Birth of Punk Attitude.

Once again he’s gone for an eclectic set of influences of punk, from Germany’s Faust to George Clinton’s Parliament and from 1960s obscure acts such as United States of America to the political charged folk of Woody Guthrie.

As with the previous collection it is a fine record of how punk developed and this time around features some of the earliest new wave and punk acts. Blondie’s 1976 track X Offender gets a spot and shows just how much 1960s girl groups influenced their take on new wave.

Across the 39 tracks there is also a welcome place for ‘Freakin Out’, another stormer from mid 1970s Detroit trio Death, and among our other highlights is the Tom Verlaine guitars on the intro to ‘Man Enough To Be A Woman’, by Jayne County.

There’s some familiar tracks ‘Suffragette City’ by David Bowie, ‘In The Street’ by Big Star and ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, but it is the obscurities that make this compilation such a stand out for us. ‘Children of the Sun’ by The Misunderstood and ‘The Story Of My Life’ by The Unrelated Segments are among our obscure highlights.

Also worth noting is the influence of reggae on punk. It is ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Marvin, which was later covered by The Clash, that is the welcome inclusion from the genre on this set.

As with any 39 track compilation it doesn’t all work. Jazz man Dizzy Gillespie’s style may have influenced punk, but his track ‘Bepop’ seems out of place here. The same can be said of The Silhouettes, who may have had a DIY approach to making music, but the barber shop track ‘Headin’ For The Poorhouse’ doesn’t quite work on this compilation.

These are small criticisms though. Dirty Water is fast turning into one of the best set of compilations around and we look forward to more obscurities being unearthed should a third volume be on the cards.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

See Also: Dirty Water: The Birth of Punk Attitude.

Veteran rock journalist Kris Needs has been back to his record collection this year for a follow up to last year’s excellent compilation Dirty Water: The Birth of Punk Attitude.

Once again he’s gone for an eclectic set of influences of punk from Germany’s Faust, to George Clinton’s Parliament from the 1970s, through to 1960s obscure acts such as United States of America and even further back to the political charged folk of woody Guthrie.

As with the previous collection its masterful shows how punk developed and this time around features some of the earliest new wave and punk acts. Blondie’s 1976 track X Offender gets a spot and shows just how even 1960s girl groups influenced punk.

Across the 39 tracks there is also a welcome place for ‘Freakin Out’, another stormer from mid 1970s Detroit trio Death, and the Tom Verlaine guitars on the intro to ‘Man Enough To Be A Woman’, by Jayne County are a thing of great beauty.

There’s some familiar tracks ‘Suffragette City’ by David Bowie, ‘In The Street’ by Big Star and ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, but it is the obscurities that make this compilation such a stand out for us. ‘Children of the Sun’ by The Misunderstood and ‘The Story Of My Life’ by The Unrelated Segments are among our obscure highlights.

Also worth noting is the influence of reggae on punk. It is Police and Thieves by Junior Marvin, which was later covered by The Clash, that is a welcome inclusion on this set.

As with any 39 track compilation it doesn’t all work. Dizzy Gillespie’s style may have influenced punk, but his track ‘Bepop’ seems out of place here. The same can be said of The Silhouettes, who may have had a DIY approach to making music, but their barber shop singing style and track ‘Headin’ For The Poorhouse’ don’t quite work on this compilation.

These are small criticisms though. Dirty Water is fast turning into one of the best set of compilations around and we look forward to more obscurities being unearthed should a third volume be on the cards.

8.5/10

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Record Store Day Reviewed

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Record Store Day Reviewed

Posted on 17 April 2011 by Dorian

Heading down to Brighton’s Resident Records at 7.15am I was shocked to see that the queue already stretched to the end of the street. This was a pretty clear guarantee that any items I was interested in would sell out before I got there, so I headed a few streets away to join the long (but significantly smaller) queue to Rounder Records.

Somewhere around 9.20 I entered the shop, and around 15 minutes later I was at the till. By this time a number of the ticked items on my list had already sold out, but I did manage to pick up four of the records I had selected. Now, one quick whinge. Record Store Day is a celebration of the record shop, but also of the record shop customer, so would it have killed the record labels to make the items a little bit cheaper? I know that the items are limited, but the cost of most of them was almost double what you would expect to pay for a similar record normally stocked in the shop. The Flaming Lips box-set was a nice package, and contained their five best albums, but was an eye watering £99. But hey, I guess that nobody is forced to buy anything.

So, on to the records. Here is my first-impressions review of the three singles and one CD EP that I picked up on the day.

Broken Bells – Meyrin Fields EP

The Broken Bells album was one of the best albums of 2010 and Brian ‘Dangermouse’ Burton seems to have developed one of his many excellent partnerships with The Shin’s James Mercer.

The Meyrin Fields EP is an evolution of the sound found on the album. Nothing radically different but the emphasis here has shifted a little and the tracks have more of the electronics, bleeps and sounds that you would associate with Dangermouse, and less of the melodic guitar pop you’d expect from the Shins frontman. This is particularly true of the title track and ‘Windows’ both of which sound like Broken Bells but wouldn’t have fitted in neatly on the album. ‘An Easy Life’ moves back to the more familiar sound and features some strings and effects that recall ELO. ‘Heartless Empire’ mixes cheap keyboard sounds with Jesus and Mary Chain guitar and is probably the song with most in common with the Shins.

In all an interesting and intriguing set of songs which we can only hope is a teaser for another full album lateer in the year.

Radiohead – Supercollider/The Butcher

Just a couple of months after the surprise release of The King Of Limbs Radiohead deliver two new songs ‘Supercollider’ and ‘The Butcher’ as an exclusive 12″ single.

It is no surprise to report that the band haven’t decided to go back to The Bends’ style indie guitar pop for this release, it is very much a counterpart to The King Of Limbs. ‘Supercollider’  is a long mellow track that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the band live at recent concerts, although it was new to me. It is track with precious little drama but as an exercise in atmospheric mood music it is very well executed. ‘The Butcher’ is more interesting with some doom laden piano and echoed funky drumming be the main backing to Thom Yorke’s typically ethereal vocals.

Not a release that will convert any listeners who have tired of the current Radiohead sound, but a couple of tracks that fans of The King of Limbs will love.

Of Montreal

Of Montreal

Of Montreal/Casiokids – Expecting To Fly/London Zoo

I’m not familiar with Casiokids, but I picked this up as I’ll buy anything that the great Kevin Barnes (AKA Of Montreal) releases.

‘Expecting To Fly’ is a production heavy version of the Buffallo Springfield song featuring just piano and some multi-tracked vocals. It would probably be a big disappointment to someone wanting the more histrionic Prince influenced Barnes as featured on his last couple of albums, but is is actually a very effecting performance and makes me wish that Barnes would do an album of more low key tracks to showcase that side of his personality.

‘London Zoo’ starts with a dour organ sound and some synth trumpet before a range of instrumental sounds and some sprightly drum machine kick in. The vocals are high pitched and the (presumably) Norwegian lyrics make it impossible for me to identify the songs meaning, which initially sets up a barrier for me. However, it is a really interesting building sound with a nice bass groove running throughout. Certainly enough for me to give the bands album a try.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues/Battery Kinzie

I like the Fleet Foxes and their debut album is a joy, and one of those rare albums that everyone seems to like, but this is one of the weakest Record Store day releases. Not on a musical level but as an artifact. It features two songs that will both be on their much anticipated second album one of which is  freely available already and the other has received radio play (and the subsequent illicit distribution). So in terms of exclusivity it is pretty weak, and at £7.99 it is quite an expensive promo. However, I got carried away, and a little flustered in the queue, and I only have myself to blame.

The songs themselves are good if unexceptional and lack the impact that the band had when they first appeared. It is inevitable that second time around the band is going to sound more familiar and it means that they have to raise their game more than is on evidence here. ‘Helplessness Blues’ is nice enough but the vocals seem less haunting and the melodies less inspired than on their debut. ‘Battery Kinzie’ is a more upbeat piano lead effort that brings Simon and Garfunkle to mind, it is an enjoyable few minutes and shows that the band want to try something more than just emulate their first album.

By Dorian Rogers

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Glastonbury 2011 Line-up Revealed

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Glastonbury 2011 Line-up Revealed

Posted on 15 April 2011 by Joe

The full 2011 Glastonbury line-up has been revealed and features some real gems on the smaller stages.

If Beyonce, U2 and Coldplay on the main Pyramid stage aren’t your thing then we recommend spending some time at the Park Stage on Saturday to see a great mid afternoon to early evening run featuring Those Dancing Days, Graham Coxon, The Walkmen and Australian psychedelic indie act Tame Impala.

Also on the Saturday night folk veterans Pentangle will be putting on a set on the Acoustic stage.

On the Friday night we recommend 1980s act Big Audio Dynamite, making a welcome return to stages across the UK as part of their reunion tour.

On the Sunday Ok Go on the John Peel stage are sure to put in a fine set. Meanwhile on the John Peel stage on Sunday the evening features TV on the Radio and The Eels.

It’s an eclectic festival of great music, that is if you are prepared to venture beyond the Pyramid stage. Having said that Paul Simon’s Pyramid stage set on Sunday looks tempting, as does Morrisey’s on the Friday.

The full line up is available here.

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Record Store Day 2011

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Record Store Day 2011

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Dorian

This Saturday sees Record Store Day hit independent record shops worldwide offering a  range of exclusive vinyl releases. Some items are limited to just a few hundred copies and collectors will be queueing early to make sure to get their hands on a selection of the goodies on offer.

Record Store Day 2011

Record Store Day 2011

The artists releasing records on the day are a diverse bunch ranging from the Beach Boys to Nirvana to Of Montreal to Van Der Graff Generator. For a full list of the records being made available go here.

Probably the most in-demand item will be the Radiohead 12″ which is limited to only 2000 copies. Although not quite as exciting as last years Blur reunion single ‘Fools Day’ it is good to have one of the biggest bands around contributing to the day. I’ll be hoping to pick a copy up along with Nirvana’s Hormoaning EP, a split Of Montreal/Casiokids 7″ and a soundtrack single from the two 1960s Dr.Who feature films.

I’ll be heading down to one of my local record shops, and I’m lucky to have three participating outlets, Resident, Rounder and Ape, all taking part. To see a list of participating shops and find one near you go here.

My advice is to get there early. Last year I arrived an hour early and was in the queue behind the last person to pick up a Blur single. I still enjoyed the day, picked up some nice collectibles, and took part in something that celebrates record shops and anything that gets people through the doors off these increasingly rare institutions has to be a good thing.

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Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

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Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Joe

Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse is a very different proposition to his last album.

While on 2008’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle he used sweeping orchestral movements and a full band feel to create an intimate album, on Apocalypse he has gone the other way, using a stripped back, intimate sound to create something altogether more expansive.

Huge issues such as American colonisation and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are covered here, albeit in Callahan’s usual meandering way.

With its small band feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.

Loosely based around the theme of Callahan sitting in a hotel room looking out at the world , the  album starts with his thoughts turning to the  expanse of the US on ‘Drover’ and the colonisation of the wild west.

He then  moves to more global concerns  in the deserts of Afghanistan and elsewhere on the album’s centrepiece ‘America’. By final track  ‘One Fine Morning’ it’s time for his droving to end.  Along the way on this global journey there’s some of Callahan’s best work, especially  ‘Riding for the Feeling’, in which his thoughts are back temporarily in his unspecified hotel room somewhere in the world.

While markedly different in tone and subject matter  to his previous album Apocalypse is unmistakably Callahan and a welcome addition to his back catalogue as both Smog and under his own name.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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The High Llamas – Talahomi Way

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The High Llamas – Talahomi Way

Posted on 12 April 2011 by Dorian

When former Microdisney member Sean O’Hagan started the High Llamas in the early 1990s it was a pretty safe bet that Brian Wilson wasn’t going to be releasing any good records any time soon. So he set about releasing a set of acclaimed albums that openly borrowed the classic sound of post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys. The albums may be released less frequently (averaging every four years now) but Talahomi Way doesn’t stray far from the blueprint.

The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

The High Llamas - Talahomi Way

On my first few listens I was unimpressed, the arrangements were nice enough but the airy feel and Beach Boys impressions just didn’t seem enough. A week or so later I tried again, by this time the weather had changed and the sun was shining brightly, this time it all seemed to make sense and I loved how bright it sounded.

Listening to this album with a positive attitude makes a real difference. It is light and airy music for sure, but there are a couple of key facts that make it worth a listen; 1. there isn’t another act that does the Brian Wilson this well. 2. There are few people around who arrange instruments as beautifully as this.

And, it is this instrumentation that makes the difference. Listening to the opening track, ‘Barry Adams’, you hear Brian Wilson but with subtle additions that make a difference. The strings that come and go through the track, the Stereolab style keyboard breaks (Tim Gane from that band was involved in the album) that add a little extra depth to the sound. O’Hagan has arranged for Stereolab several times and many of the tracks here have a kitsch 60s lounge feel that recalls the band circa ‘Dots and Loops’, not a massive leap from the template but an indicator that O’Hagan is interested in more than just aping Pet Sounds.

The largely instrumental ‘Talahomi Way’ adds more classic 60s sounds to the album, recalling most of all John Barry’s soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy. ‘Angel Connector’, another instrumental, breaks from the pattern more radically and brings Cornelius to mind, another of O’Hagan’s past collaborators.

The rest of the album follows the same pattern, a smattering of instrumentals, some cool 60s sounds and the classic Beach Boys sound that O’Hagan clearly genuinely loves. It really is a lovely way to spend 40 minutes of your time and the more you listen the more you hear, the instrumental touches are of such a high calibre that it is no surprise that the bands output is so infrequent.

8/10 (7/10 on a dull or rainy day)

By Dorian Rogers

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The Leisure Society – This Phantom Life

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Joe

The Leisure Society have announced details of their second album Into the Murky Water and released this splendid video, featuring comedy actor Mark Heap,  for its first single This Phantom Life.

The new album by one of our favourite UK bands will be released on 2 May and the single on April 25.

A tour has also been announced:

MAY
3rd Brighton Komedia
4th Bristol Thekla
5th Nottingham Rescue Rooms
7th Leeds Brudenell Social Club
8th Glasgow King Tuts
9th Manchester Band on the Wall
10th London Union Chapel

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